Show 583: Susan Blackmore

Equal Time welcomes Susan Blackmore back to the show!

Where can you draw a line between spirituality and (scientific) skepticism? Is there a way to find a balance between the two without believing in supernaturalism? How does the new work in consciousness studies and neuroscience help us better understand what is “real” or imagined?

On this show, ex parapsychologist, current psychologist and scientific skeptic Susan Blackmore will discuss her own experience as well a her recent books, The Meme Machine, and Seeing Myself (about OBE’s).

Audio can be found here!

Show 572: Free Will and Building a Humanistic Society

Free Will and Building a Humanistic Society w/Gregg D. Caruso

In recent decades, with advances in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences, the idea that patterns of human behavior may ultimately be due to factors beyond our conscious control has increasingly gained traction and renewed interest in the age-old problem of “Free Will.”

A Free-Will Skeptic might believe that whatever you choose to do at any given moment in time is ALL you could have done given your determinants. You could not have done otherwise. But if “Free Will” is indeed an illusion, not only might we have to rethink how and why we do what we do as regards efforts to change the world, but how we understand key aspects of how we treat one another today’s society. Does judgment make any sense if but there for the determinants go I? What about the bootstrapping ideology of the right and the notion of the self-made man/woman? Perhaps most significantly, however, might be how we view our entire criminal justice system.

Today we will explore with philosopher Gregg Caruso what we mean by free will, what the arguments for and against  it have been in the past and currently, and what it would mean  if we DON’T have free will – for ourselves and for society.

Audio can be found here!

Show 569: The Big Picture w/Sean Carroll

This week we will be acheterdufrance.com speaking with theoretical physicist and cosmologist Sean Carroll who returns to the show to discuss his new book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. His book is every bit as ambitious as it sounds, delving into philosophy, physics, biology, chemistry, and much more as he seeks to tie what we know into a “big picture” of existence itself.

Carroll is a research associate in the department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology where he specializes in Dark Energy and General Relativity.  He’s been published in scientific journals such as Nature and New Scientist, and has appeared on episodes of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, the History Channel’s The Universe, and the Colbert Report. He’s written several popular science books including From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time.

Audio can be found here!

Show 567: Consciousness, American Empire, and “Sacred Humanism”

Consciousness, American Empire, and “Sacred Humanism” w/ Morris Berman

Whether discussing racism and ‘whiteness’ with Tim Wise and Robin DeAngelo, reviewing the natural and social scientific examinations of American society, or discussing the relationship between capitalism and what results from it regards the physical and psychological lives of each one of us, we have tried to go deeper than the symptoms of our current state of the nation and address the disease(s).

We have tried to remain optimistic that somehow the knowledge we share, and the growing discontent in the country, could lead us towards progressive social change. But not everyone is convinced this is possible. A few of our previous guests including Chris Hedges, and today’s guest, Morris Berman are achaten-suisse.com looking at America and preparing her epitaph. But while Hedges has a rather Hobbesian take on human nature in general, Morris might yet see a positive outcome for humanity…only probably not in the USA.

Today, as we head into the 4th of July holiday, we will speak to Professor Berman and see if we can pull some of these things together. Morris Berman is an American historian and social critic. Berman won the Rollo May Center Grant for Humanistic Studies in 1992, and the Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity (from the Media Ecology Association) in 2013. Berman relocated to Mexico in 2006, and for a couple of years was a Visiting Professor at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, in Mexico City.

Audio can be found here!

Show 511: Consciousness and the Social Brain

Consciousness and the Social Brain w/ Michael Graziano

What is consciousness and how can a brain, a mere collection of neurons, create it? The human brain has evolved a complex circuitry that allows it to be socially intelligent. This social machinery has only just begun to be studied in detail. One function of this circuitry is to attribute awareness to others: to compute that person Y is aware of thing X. Can the machinery that attributes awareness to others also attribute it to one’s self? If we were to damage that machinery, therefore, would we disrupt our own awareness? We will discuss the science, the evidence, the philosophy, and the surprising implications of this new theory with its presenter, Dr. Michael Graziano.

Show 507: Patricia Churchland

Patricia Churchland: Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain

The human experience, and the ‘self’, is so rich it must be produced by some transcendent being, some ultimate self that goes beyond the physical body, or so it is claimed.  How else can spiritual experience and deep emotion be explained?  Can they all be products of the brain?

It turns out that by studying the brain, scientists have gained profound understandings of much of human nature.  The brain really is capable of generating the rich, varied human experiences we call ‘spirituality’.  But that fact challenges our ideas about who and what we are.  If our ‘selves’ are “just” the product of some physical mechanism, even one as complex as the brain, are we really robust human beings?

Patricia Churchland, professor emerita at the University of California, San Diego, teaches neurophilosophy.  She’s accustomed to tackling the big philosophical questions with respect to the brain, and has become comfortable with the idea that our ‘selves’ really are our brains.  She’ll discuss these questions and more on this brain-twisting episode of ETFF!